The Desk

June 21, 2015

Dispelling Myths: Timeless Lessons

What was the day like on June 20, 1926 in Beggs, Louisiana? Out of curiosity, let us look at a remodeled farm house from that period that’s now standing in present day standards. Simply switch out the dish washer for a stand with a place for a tub, a wood burning stove, and humble plaster on the walls, and you’ve pretty much transported yourself into the time and place. Let us compare and contrast that the updated appearance to that of the period. Consider The Creole Cottage. Aside from the appliances and an abundance of windows, the appointments are not drastically different.

It was the height of the Great Depression and the Summer. By necessity, industry was predominantly agrarian, the house filling with children. There were many hands contributing to the burgeoning amount of work to be done. We’ve gone through several economic revolutions in that time but some things are just as timeless as the cottage.

There were many lessons to be learned and passed on to the next generation. Lessons with regard to business matters and roles of the individual sexes. There were many teachers in many disciplines. But discipline and etiquette were primary for all, no matter what age or race. Abiding to strict rules of protocol and respect was expected of everyone toward their fellow humans. Pre-pubescents did not speak to any adult as though the adult was an inferior, no matter what the race. Likewise, children did not dismiss adults from their presence because the child was through talking to the adult.

Being articulate and well spoken is another trait of the Louisianan. Those skills represent one’s station as well as the status of the family. Expect the candidate from Louisiana to take humble pride in their speaking skills. In fact, don’t be surprised if there’s astonishment at a compliment paid to their articulateness. It’s a matter that’s taken for granted.

Even before there were human resource departments in urban areas and before the establishment of the Social Security system, a form of collective benefits fund in the form of a Creole Social Club was established in order to provide for emergencies. These are resourceful people who do not rely on handouts for survival. It is insulting to characterize them in any inferior way.

Animal husbandry was just part of the daily grind. So, also, was weights and measures and negotiating a fair price. Sundays were spent listening to Grandfather preach. Weekdays were constant exercises of how to speak to others with diplomacy, in a well modulated voice, using reason as the higher bargaining skill in order to negotiate the sought-after goal.

It was Great Depression America. That meant knowing how to be self sufficient. But it also meant having the wisdom to gain favor with all neighbors in case of need or emergency. Which takes us back to communication and persuasion skills. Speak; don’t speak. It takes a discerning mind to know when words are necessary in order to accomplish something and what priority the “something” has with regard to advocating for it.

There were social skills to learn. One realized that no matter who you were, you were an example of your family. That meant being circumspect in all manner of things. To bring shame upon yourself was to bring shame on not only your family but also your neighbors, your community. So being polite, knowing the rules of etiquette, and knowing your place were supremely important for the community to heave together and survive.

Evaluate, evaluate, evaluate. Before making judgments about anything, evaluate as much of the situation as possible. Gather all the facts. Judge the person by their acts and deeds and use a point system in order to rank whether they have earned being in your company or if they are begging for exclusion. If the words don’t match the actions, if they don’t have the right number of points, they need to be removed from consideration. Maybe they can redeem theirself sometime in the future. But there are many things that need to be accomplished. Better to not waste time and energy on one who will be a detraction. So keep them on the fringes (maybe) for future consideration and allow them to prove they are worthy of earning trust and inclusion for building resources and skills.

Things have changed since 1926. It’s called modernization and progress. But some things are constant. Before we fall on trusting the generalizations about classes of people, we need to realize that the character of a person and the foundations upon which they were raised are as ingrained in them as their DNA. Take them out of the place of origin and they will resort to the practices that made them who they are. Many are what we desire: circumspect, hard working, discerning, reliable.


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